MANAGING RISK OF DELAY – Schedule Updates and Progress Considerations (Part 10)

This post is the tenth in a series of discussions regarding various aspects of time management as it relates to the risk of delay.  This post addresses planning for and implementing progress measurement and schedule updates.

The challenge associated with managing time is intensified in the case of larger and more complex projects as well as fast-track and high technology projects.

In order to professionally manage time (and, therefore, risk of delay) the manager must have a time baseline [typically a Critical Path Method schedule and a Performance Measurement Baseline – please see earlier posts on these topics] and a method to recognize variations from the baseline.  In order to detect variances, the managerial team must have an effective process to measure progress data and update the schedule (or time model).

Progress measuring and reporting are an integral and crucial part of project execution planning.  Most major Engineer Procure Construct [EPC], Lump Sum Turnkey [LSTK] and Construction contracts contain requirements or provisions for progress reporting.  Simplistically, this progress reporting is the act of informing another party to the contract that certain work items or portion of the work breakdown structure have been completed (or are lacking completion).

As a project/construction/contracts/business manager and similar, it is imperative that you define your project execution approach as it relates to progress measurement and schedule updates.  The “water-shed” or uses of the information are enormous.

In this discussion, I will use three key references:

The CIOB Guide covers updating the schedule with the following advice:

“4.4.1 Updating is not progress monitoring, nor is it schedule revision.  It is simply the addition of as-built data to the working schedule and the recalculation of the critical path in the light of progress actually achieved.”

“[snip] by updating with progress against the progress records and recalculating the critical path, the working schedule becomes a dynamic model by which:

  • Predictions can be made;
  • Problem issues can be identified early;
  • Mitigating recovery and acceleration can be implemented;
  • The future conduct of the works can be effectively managed.”

“[Snip] there should be direct correlation between the timing of the schedule update and the reporting cycle.  In other words, the data date of the updated schedule should match the reporting requirements.  Legitimately, however, there may be an increase in updating frequency depending upon the construction phase and/or the work in progress [pp 87, 88].”

Under Project Update Cycle, PMI advises:

“The update cycle is the regular interval at which the status of the project is reported.  [Snip]  The updated cycle reflects how management intends to utilize the data generated from the schedule model, including the timing of review meetings, management reporting requirements, and payment cycles which often are tied to updates.  Select an update cycle providing management with an optimum level of control information without being overly burdensome to the people doing the reporting and analyzing.  The optimum update cycle will vary with industry and project intent — from hourly updates for panned outage projects for manufacturing/production facilities to weekly or monthly updates for major construction or software development projects.  The chosen update cycle has a direct relationship on [to or with] the activity durations contained in the schedule.”

“The choice of update cycle is influenced by a number of factors, such as the rate of change in the project, the duration of the project, etc.  For relatively stable, long-term, low-risk projects, a monthly or bi monthly status cycle may be appropriate.  For volatile, high-risk projects, updates may be required for every shift change or on an hourly basis.”

The relationship between activity/task duration and update cycle is very important.

O’Brien addresses the issue as follows:

“Setting a maximum duration is another matter based upon the usage by the people using the schedule.  The primary reason for setting maximum activity duration is to improve the quality and ease of updates to the schedule during the course of the project.  A second reason, often cited is to assist the reviewer in verifying the reasonableness of activity durations.”

“[Snip] The choice of maximum duration and frequency of update is therefore, set by the level of error that can be tolerated.  [Snip]  Thus many specifications base the setting of a maximum duration as not greater than twice the frequency of updates.  [Snip]…the contractor may well desire to update more frequently than required by the specification. [p 74]”

One key consideration is the contract requirements regarding recognition and Notice.  This is addressed in a prior post .

The selection and planning must be consistent with the management challenge.  Some considerations or factors that influence the choice are:

  • Critical and near-critical paths or fragnets – importance
  • Key work or trades
  • Phase of the project
  • Early to establish progress and productivity baselines.

Since this process is normally linked to Earned Value Management and productivity, the choice is influenced by the managerial strategy.  These tools are building blocks for managerial implementation.

When M&M undertakes an assignment involving program/project development, planning and/or management, we integrate both critical path time management and earned value management practices and procedures into project execution.

Good luck and let us all attempt to approach the issue of Time-Management strategy with all the factors in an integrated manner (critical path progress, bulk progress or EVM, and productivity) relative to other related aspects of program and project execution planning.  In planning for these practices, consideration must be given to progress measurement and schedule updates.


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